Things to Know When Traveling in Italy

Things to Know When Traveling in Italy
Traveling in Italy offers the chance to immerse yourself in a completely different culture where time is loose and relaxing over a three-course meal is commonplace. In order to have a care-free vacation, it's important to understand how Italy works. The answers to simple questions such as ''When do stores open and close?," "Where are the public restrooms?", and "Why is everything closed in August?" will help you plan your day and make your vacation less stressful.

Helpful Information

Power supply is 240 volts. Plugs have two round pins, so electrical equipment with U.S. plugs will need adapters. It is best to bring one with you.

Fuel is sold by the liter and not the gallon as is customary in the United States. There are about 4 liters to one gallon. Distances are measured in kilometers.

Public restrooms can be difficult to find. The best solution is to find a bar or café and use those facilities; it is polite to buy something. Sometimes a dish is provided for customers to leave a small gratuity (loose change). "Signori" is the sign used for "men," and "signore" means "woman."

"Buongiorno" means "hello" and is used until midday. "Buonasera" means "good afternoon" and is used in the afternoon and evening.

Dress appropriately when entering churches. This typically means women must cover their shoulders and knees, and men should wear pants. For women, a shawl is a handy item to carry if you plan on visiting a lot of churches.

The easiest way to get cash is to use an ATM. Be sure you know your daily withdrawal limit, alert your bank as to your destination, and be sure to check that your pin number will work in a foreign country. In most cases, it is best to withdraw money in large chunks as you will be charged a fee every time you withdraw money. With an ATM in every town, traveler's checks are a thing of the past.


If you only want a one-course dinner, consider eating at a pizzeria. For a snack, head to a bar. Most restaurants are known in Italy as trattoria, ristorante or osteria, and they will expect you to order a couple of courses. In these types of establishments, a "pane e coperto" (bread and cover) charge will be added to your bill.

When you are finished with your meal, be sure to ask the server for the bill or "il conto." Unlike the United States, waiters don't bring the bill until you ask for it.

When drinking in a café, you will pay more to sit at a table to drink your coffee than when you drink it at the bar.

Water at fountains is drinkable unless there is a sign stating "acqua non potabile" (not drinkable).


If you plan on making a lot of international calls, it is best to purchase a prepaid calling card. These are available in the "tabacchi" (tobacconist) stores and can be used from mobile, public and private phones. Many hotels charge a hefty fee for making international calls, so it is advisable to use the calling card. To call abroad from Italy, first dial 00, followed by the country code. For example, when calling the US, dial 00 1 followed by the area code.

Emergency numbers:
Police 112, Ambulance 118, Fire Brigade 115

The Italian mail system is famously bad. When mailing postcards, it is best to put them in an envelope, otherwise they may never reach their destination. Stamps can be purchased at the post office or at the tobacconist stores. Mail between Italy and the United States takes about 10 days.

Hours of Operation

Typically, shops and stores open around 8 or 9 a.m. and close around 1 p.m. for lunch. Most reopen around 3.30 and remain open until 8. Most stores are closed on Sundays and sometimes on Monday. Italians tend to take their summer vacation during the month of August. Many stores are closed during this time.

Restaurants that serve lunch open around 12.30 p.m. and usually close again during the middle of the afternoon. They typically reopen for dinner around 7.30pm. Most restaurants close for the month of August.

Article Written By Alexandra Pallut

Alexandra Pallut is a travel, health and fitness writer based in Steamboat Springs, Colo. She has been writing her way around the world since 2008 and currently works with Pallut graduated with a degree in English literature and French language from Lancaster University in Great Britain.

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